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Figure of Shiva

It is not too bold a declaration to assert that the figure of Shiva Nataraja, or the Lord of the Dance, is the core artistic and cultural symbol of Hinduism. Undoubtedly it is the most familiar, even if it is not the most easily understood. Further, this figure must be taken as the most ubiquitous museum piece for all Hindu religious culture. In virtually any Western museum, the figure of Shiva very much stands for the content of Hindu doctrine and belief.

In the Norton Simon Museum of suburban Los Angeles, which is lesser known than the famous Getty but nevertheless an important fine-arts museum of Southern California in the U.S., is contained what appears to be a strong exemplar of Hindu symbolism and myth. There, in a section designed for the purpose of displaying Asian art (though in somewhat of a hodgepodge) is contained a tenth-century bronze of medium size (approximately 75 cm high), which depicts Shiva as the Lord of the Dance. The tenth century is designated by the museum as the Chola Period of Indian history. Now what is important about this piece is that it seems to be the most comprehensive representation of Hindu belief about the creative/destructive principle of the universe. That is, Shiva (also Siva) as the Lord of the Dance is meant to represent Shiva as the lord of the dance of both life and death, or more generally as lord of the cosmos itself.

Every position of every feature of Shiva's body has a cosmic significance, which is implicit partly in the fact that the body has two sets of arms and hands. Further, the very figure of the body, when analyzed piece by piece, represents the sum total of the vicissitudes of human experience. At first glance, this sum total of four instead of two arms seems to indicate movement, if movement is interpreted as the whole of human experience through space and time. However, this interpretation may be the result of a Western bias toward generalization. Why? Because it does not ...

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Figure of Shiva. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:10, December 07, 2021, from